Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Future Of Nintendo, According To Some Random, Anonymous Dude On The Internet

The internet is great. It allows all sorts of information and facts to make their way across the world in seconds. It also means that any schmuck with a keyboard can post whatever random thought he wants for millions to see. This site is proof of that.

Nintendo recently held a media summit, aka a "pre-E3 showing off for the press on our own terms" event. Here, they supposedly displayed the games that were on tap for the rest of 2007, as well as a few teasers for what 2008 would hold. Of course, all this information is very hush hush, held secret under embargoes and non-disclosure agreements. But that didn't stop an alleged attendee from posting the big N's secrets for all to see.

In a story that appeared on Nintendo Galaxy this weekend, the poster claimed knowledge of release dates for games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl (11/12/07) and Super Mario Galaxy (12/10/07), as well as providing details on these games and Metroid Prime 3. And for 2008, he claimed that new Animal Crossing and Mario Kart titles, just to name a few, would be on the way.

By far, though, the biggest piece of "news" in his post had to do with a short teaser trailer for what the poster claimed is a new Zelda game, presumably for the Wii. Now this is were I call shenanigans. Everything up to this point was somewhat believable. But a new Zelda game? Granted, Twilight Princess hasn't exactly been a smash hit for the Wii - it is just a souped-up GameCube game, after all - but it's only been on shelves for 7 months. If a new Zelda game is in the works, it has to be a good 2-3 years off.

Honestly, this is all probably just a bunch of net bull. But it's still fun to talk about. And who knows? Come July, maybe we'll all be talking about the brave soul that defied Nintendo and brought us this golden information early. Then again, maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass.

The Entire Star Wars Epic, Episodes I-VI, All On One Disk!

Too bad we're not talking about the movies. But hey, at least I got your attention. As we all know, Star Wars celebrated its 30th anniversary last Friday. And with timing being everything and all, Traveller's Tales took it upon themselves last week to announce the latest game in the Lego Star Wars franchise.

As I alluded to in my ever-so-deceptive title, this as-yet untitled game will span the entire Star Wars movie epic, and will include characters and stories from all six episodes. But, as Ars Technica reported, this is not just a rehash of the existing two titles. The levels from the previous games will be altered, and there will be new content as well. The multiplayer will also be enhanced, with online play available using the PS3 or Xbox 360.

Despite the potential for some been there, done that moments, this is sure to be a must have title. The Lego Star Wars games are great fun, if a little too simplistic at times. Still, what other game has a playable Chewbacca character that rips the arms off of his enemies? Wookies rule.

There's no release date on this one yet, but look for this to hit before the end of the year. And if you're a little short on cash at release time, just use the Jedi mind trick on the guy at the store.

P.S. - I'd just like to mention that this is the 100th post here at the Atomic Playground. It's taken a couple of months to get here, but this is a true milestone. A special thanks to all the readers for coming by and hanging out on the Playground, and thanks to everyone working behind the scenes and keeping this place going. Next stop - 1000!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Give Your Computer All The TV It Can Handle

At least, that's the theory. You know that fancy digital cable feed that brings all 37 HBO channels into your house (and Spice, of course)? Well, it doesn't play well with your PC. See, the cable industry thinks you're a pirate, and that, if given the chance, you will make it your life's mission to upload as much of that digital cable feed to the internet for other pirates to download and enjoy. And because of that, they hate you and want to make your life a living hell.

Enter CableCards - the solution to the set top box dilemma. Sort of. In theory, the CableCard is supposed to allow you to use the tuner built in to your TV and recording devices to actually - get this - watch and record TV, without a pesky cable box and cable box rental fee screwing things up. But there are a few catches.

First, you need a cable card for every device that you want to watch and/or record TV on. Second, those cards aren't free - you rent them from your provider, just like the box. Third, the cards don't support interactive services like video on demand, so if you're a VOD junkie, you'll still need a box. And, last but not least, the stupid things don't really work that well.

Case in point - people have been waiting for CableCard tuners to come to the PC for some time, so users of Microsoft's Windows Media Center could watch and record their digital cable feeds. Well, the devices are finally poised to come to market, but as a report on Engadget shows us, these things aren't necessarily ready for prime time.

The guys tried to setup two separate installations. One went by the book, and was quick and easy. The other? After two days, the CableCard still wasn't working properly. And this wasn't with Joe Blow trying to install it - this was with big-wigs from MS and Time Warner Cable on hand. Good show guys.

Thanks to their piracy fears, studios and IP holders have made the simple act of watching and recording TV needlessly complicated. Does anyone remember the day when you took something out the box, plugged it in, and it just worked and did everything that is was supposed to? Yeah, neither do I, but my grandpa tells me those days were awesome.

Oh, and for those of you still scratching your heads and pretending like you aren't really a nerd, the picture above is ATi's CableCard adapter for Vista PCs. Don't lie - you knew all along.

Haven't We Rocked Out Enough?

Is it just me, or does it seem like there's a new Guitar Hero announcement every other week? Who knew that all it took to take over the video game industry was a cheap plastic guitar. Well, actually, I guess it takes three cheap plastic guitars.

We knew that Guitar Hero 3 would be making its way to your next gen console of choice before the holiday shopping season began, but now we have a few more details. First up, wireless controllers have been confirmed for the big three - the PS3, 360, and Wii. Honestly, I'm surprised about the announcement for the 360, but pleasantly. And for those of you still rocking the old school PS2, some good news - your existing controller will work with the new game.

Next up is a partial track list for the game. Here's what has been confirmed so far:
  • Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
  • Cherub Rock (Smashing Pumpkins)
  • Sabotage (Beastie Boys)
  • The Metal (Tenacious D)
  • My Name is Jonas (Weezer)
  • Knights of Cydonia (Muse)
  • Rock And Roll All Nite (Kiss)
  • School’s Out (Alice Cooper)
  • Slow Ride (Fog Hat)
  • Cult of Personality (Living Colour)
  • Barracuda (Heart)

There are definitely some great bands listed above, but many of the songs are just...meh. I'm sure the best is yet to come, buy still, the best Weezer song they could come up with was My Name Is Jonas?

What do you guys think of the song list? Is this just the first bomb RO will be dropping, or is the franchise starting to lose the fire?

Tuesday Trainwreck - Who Got The Hooch?

The AP crew is back from our long weekend (Happy Memorial Day, by the way), ready to get back to the important task of writing about rumors and reviewing trash. Hey, if we don't do it, and the other ten million sites out there don't either, then who will? Let's not find out. So with that, let's get back to business.

A word on this trainwreck, however - I contemplated switching this column to a Wednesday Trainwreck this week for a couple of reasons. First, the hangover hasn't really gone away yet, despite the fact that it's now Tuesday afternoon. Damn you Jack Daniels! Too loud. Second, and perhaps more relevant to the feature, is that almost nothing being released this week will actually be available today. Because of Monday's holiday, most items are just being shipped out to retailers today, and won't hit the shelves until tomorrow.

Then I realized - this is an excellent chance for a preemptive strike. See, by the time all three of you read this column on a normal Tuesday, you've already had the chance to go out and buy the very thing I'm telling you not to buy. But this week, you'll be an informed consumer. You're welcome. Don't get the wrong idea, though - I'm not moving this feature to Monday. Monday's suck enough as it is, without the demands of a feature series that has to be published. Besides, Monday Trainwreck just doesn't have the same ring to it. I'd have to change the column to something like Monday Melee, which is totally gay, and would also mean that I've have to create a new graphic. Pass.

Okay, enough rambling - that was supposed to be one paragraph. So let's jump right into it:

Yes movie lovers, this week's trainwreck is Basic Instinct. But not just any version - this is the hi-def Blu-Ray edition of Basic Instinct. Think about what that means for a minute.

Now I know there are probably a bunch of you out there right now calling me an ass on this one. For a lot of 20-something guys, this was their first big screen look at lady parts in all their glory. But realize what we're talking about here - these are Sharon Stone's lady parts. In hi def. This woman is old enough to be your mother.

Granted, she was still pretty hot when this movie was filmed, so it's not all bad. But when you combine 49-year-old hooch with a shitty script, poor acting, and the skinny Rice-A-Roni guy, you don't have something worth wasting $30 bucks over. Besides, didn't you already buy this movie when the special edition DVD with the ice pick came out?

Bottom line, you've seen Sharon's va-jay-jay more times than you've needed to at this point, so it's time to move on to greener pastures. And I don't mean Britney Spears.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy 30th Anniversary Star Wars

It's hard to believe that it's been this long, but it's true. 30 years ago, in a movie theater far, far away, a legend was born. And that legend was Star Wars. Ever since that day, we've been obsessed with lightsabers, the Millennium Falcon, and of course, Darth Vader. This series has touched the life of almost everyone in this country, and even the world. And because of that, we need to celebrate geek style. Let the internet festivities begin!

First, go take The Ultimate Star Wars Personality Test and find out your true identity in the Star Wars universe. If you turn out to be Queen Amidala, you have my condolences.

Next, get yourself some learning over at the Star Wars Wikipedia page. Whether you're a noob or a nerd, you'll find out something that you didn't know. Then you can wow your guild with some mad knowledge.

After Wiki, go get yourself some Star Wars wallpaper so you can decorate your desktop with style. There are literally hundreds of wallpapers available, so you should have no trouble finding something to satisfy even the most discerning wookie. And guys, if you can't find what you're looking for, I've got you covered. Finding the right image is as easy as counting to 1, 2, 3, and 4. You're welcome.

Now it's time to rock out. And for that, we've got one of the best Star Wars rap songs ever - it's Fett's Vette, by mc chris. Even Vader would appreciate the skills on this track.

Then finally, come back here and share your favorite Star Wars moment with the rest of the Atomic Playground community via the comments section. What's my favorite? Easy - Slave Leia. Oh yeah. As for second favorite - the end of Empire, and the battle between Luke and Vader. It's classic.

So enjoy all the Star Wars goodness that the net has to offer. Later this evening, be sure to check out our friends over on G4. Attack of the Show! will kick off a 2 hour Star Wars special at 7 pm ET, followed by a Star Wars themed X-Play at 9 pm ET. Our friends over at Epileptic Gaming will also have some special Star Wars coverage tonight, and they go live at 7 pm ET.

And in case you were wondering just what Star Wars character the kidd is, wonder no more:

I'm Han Solo baby! Send your princesses this way.

And, of course, what would a special occasion be on the Playground without a video. So, for your viewing pleasure, may I present a classic:

Obi-Wan would be proud, young master Jedi.

May the force be with you.

Friday Freebie - Special Star Wars Anniversary Edition

For those of you not on a first name basis with the Sith Lord, today is a special day for Star Wars. On this day, 30 years ago, the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV) opened in the United States. Since then, it's been a defining force in our culture, and the phenomenon continues today. So, keeping this in mind, I felt that a special Star Wars edition of the Friday Freebie was in order.

Not many things in the Star Wars universe are free. Turns out, George Lucas has really cornered the market on getting money out of people for the same thing over and over again. But if you look hard enough, you can find something cool that doesn't cost a dime.

So what is a fanboy to do when you want to show your love for all things Star Wars, in vehicle form, but can't scrape up the cash for one of those fancy Lego kits or some "official" Hasbro goodness? You make one yourself out of paper. See, you can find anything on the internet:

The Movie Paper Craft Gallery is your stop when you want to make a Star Wars model on the cheap. They have kits for all your favorite vehicles, including the massive AT-AT (shown above), the even more massive Imperial Star Destroyer, and everyones favorite, the Millennium Falcon. All you need to supply is paper, scissors, tape, glue, and a hell of a lot of patience.

These kits certainly aren't easy, but making something this complex out of paper is pretty cool. Not to mention, you're wallet is not $50 lighter, which is always a plus. So take your time, and have some fun with them.

There's even more Star Wars fun to come, so be sure to check back at the Atomic Playground later in the day for the main course. Until then, start folding!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The PS3 Is An Even Better Media Console - Too Bad There Are Still No Games For It

Say what you will about the PS3 - it's expensive, it's big, it's a dust magnet - it's one powerful console. And Sony just keeps making it more powerful. Case in point - firmware 1.8 was just released, and it effectively turns the PS3 into an upscaling DVD player. The back catalog of PS1 and PS2 games will also be upscaled to HD resolutions with this firmware, so across the board, the PS3 is now delivering a full high def experience.

That's not the only change - PSP remote play is being enabled across the net. So, assuming you leave your PS3 on 24/7, you can access its content from any Wi-Fi connection using your PSP. That means photos, music, and maybe even video can be streamed directly to you. Sony has done a great job ramping up this feature. Initially, remote play was only available via a direct connection with the PS3's built-in Wi-Fi. In a later firmware update, the access was expanded to your internal home network. And now, the net. Scheduled for firmware 1.9 - intergalactic access.

But one problem remains for the PS3 - the game library is still pretty slim. Sure, there are a bunch of ports, but none of them would drive a system sale. The fact is, you can count the number of titles worth owning on one hand. You could say the same thing about the Wii as well, but with its drop in the bucket price, it's just not that much of an issue. But there is hope for the PS3 - many AAA first party titles are on the way, and scheduled for release before the end of 2007. So now may not be a particularly strong time for Sony, but things are looking up for the holiday shopping season.

So Sony, keep cranking out the updates, but don't forget about the games. They are, after all, the main ingredient in a game console.

For the full list of features in the new firmware, you can pimp the press release here. And just to clear things up - no, things didn't go backwards. The 2.0 firmware we reported on previously is still in the works, so just chill and enjoy what you have for now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - Mel Gibson Strikes Again

Remember when Mel Gibson was cool? I guess it depends on how old you are. Everyone over 20 raise you hand. Damn, now I feel old. Anyway, back in the day, Mel Gibson was a cool guy that starred in a bunch of kick-ass films like Mad Max and Lethal Weapon (the first one - the rest were a waste of video tape). But now, he's just some old racist making movies that no one can understand:

And when I say that no one can understand Apocalypto, I mean it literally. You see, in his infinite wisdom, Mr. Gibson decided that the film should be performed in a dead Mayan language. I'm not really sure which one. I'd Google it, but honestly, does it really matter? Suffice it to say, you will be reading if you watch this movie. And reading is for suckers.

What was the point of having all the dialogue be in ancient Mayan? If you ask Mel, I'm sure he'd tell you that it's supposed to bring you deeper into the story and make you feel like you're living as part of the tribe. But in reality, I'm sure it's just a grandiose attempt to both generate hype for the movie, and make it feel more historically accurate than it really is. It certainly worked on the first part.

As for the plot, the story revolves around a young man in the tribe named Jaguar Paw. Hmm, I guess it's better than Frog Scrotum. Anyway, the tribe is attacked, a bunch of his friends are killed, and he a few others are taken prisoner. Eventually, they're brought to a temple to be sacrificed to some god that no one has ever heard of (let's say Kianto, just for the hell of it), and Jag must escape to save his wife and son. Oh yeah, they got trapped in a well at some point. I wonder if her name was Jessica...

From a purely cinematic standpoint, this movie isn't terrible. There are some cool action scenes, and the temple sequence borders on "epic". But all in all, it's not enough to make up for the fact that this movie pretends to teach you something about ancient times, as well as pass on a metaphor about today's society. And I don't need to learn anything when I'm watching a movie. That's my brain turned off time.

If you're really looking to waste some money, there's even a Blu-Ray version of this flick available. I'm sure it's very pretty, but meh. And I realize this is against the nature of this feature, but if you're looking for a new release to spend your money on this week, might I suggest Season 3 of Airwolf?

Monday, May 21, 2007

If A 13 Year Old Downloads A Song From Kazaa, The Terrorists Win

The war on drugs is apparently over. The war on crime? Done. The war on the West Nile virus? Killer bees? Dr. Phil? All finished. I don't know if we actually won any of them, but I can tell you this - America is now facing a greater threat than all of those combined, and it's going to take a collective effort to overcome it. Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves - the war against attempted copyright infringement has begun!

Wait, really? That's it? That's the big one? Okay, whatever.

While we were all busy watching American Idol and playing the Halo 3 beta, America fell behind every other country in everything. We're not the smartest, we're not the best dressed, and we're not producing anything of value. Except for movies, TV, music, and video games, and even some of that is questionable. So, there's a big effort to keep your cheap, thieving hands off of anything you didn't overpay for.

Enter Alberto Gonzales (aka Gonzo), Attorney General of the U.S. He's decided that copyright infringement is so significant, that even attempting it should result in jail time. Let's think about some of the other crimes out there that you can get arrested for merely attempting, and not committing: Speeding? No. Littering? No. Possessing an illegal weapon? No. Drug trafficking? No. Let's just cut to the chase here - we're talking about crimes along the lines of murder and manslaughter, which is just a fancy form of murder. That's right - if you even think about uploading a song to the internet, you might as well just try and kill somebody.

The level of ridiculousness here is astounding. What the hell is Gonzo thinking? Are we that desperate to put people in jail? Is a bootleg copy of Elf really worth all that much? Could this country get any more screwed up?

Time and time again, laws are put on the books that make it more difficult for honest, paying consumers to enjoy their media. And this is just another one of them. The world doesn't come to an end when some kid downloads a Britney Spears single off the internet (god knows why you would want to, but that's a subject for another article). The "old men" in Washington need to crawl out of their coffins and get in touch with the real world, and stop listening to the MPAA, RIAA, and all the other billion-dollar lobbyists buying their own laws. It's crap, and it has to stop.

For more information about what you can do to turn the tides, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit group that's actually on our side. This country used to be the greatest land in the world, but things are slowly changing. Sure, this doesn't seem like much, but when freedom is taken away one piece at a time, you don't notice it. Yet soon enough, we'll all be left with nothing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Warhawk - Get It Straight Up, Or With A Twist

Warhawk is one of those games that Sony just doesn't seem to know what to do with. First it had a single player campaign, then it was multiplayer only. First it was coming out on Blu-Ray, then it was only available by download. After that, it was Blu-Ray only again. And now it's both. Way to give a game emotional problems Sony...

As it stands right now, you'll be able to download Warhawk directly from the PlayStation Network if you want to save a few bucks and don't care about having the physical game disk. But, if you prefer, you will also be able to buy it in a store on Blu-Ray (probably for a few bucks more). As an added bonus for those folks that buy the disk, it will come packaged with a free Bluetooth headset for use with the game, and any other game that supports voice chat. That's a great bonus, as a decent headset can easily run $20-$40 bucks (or $60 if you're an Xbox 360 user).

Also of interest for this game is that it will feature an online beta starting May 24 (sorry, the sign up period has already passed). I'm thinking that the developers want to make sure people are satisfied with the multiplayer aspects of the game, since that's all they'll be getting. As I mentioned earlier, there will be no single player campaign out of the box. This is the biggest sticking point of the game for me. Sure, multiplayer is great, but what happens in a year or two when most people have moved on to other games? Putting together a match is going to become a real PITA. Of course, it's possible that Sony will release a single player option as a future download, but I hate microtransactions.

This game is currently scheduled to be released in the third quarter of the year, but that could change depending on the outcome of the beta. It'll certainly be worth a look when it does hit, and if the price is right, it may at least be worth the download. Right now, this game has some serious potential - let's hope it doesn't get wasted.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Motion Control - It's Not Just For The Wii Anymore

When Nintendo announced their motion sensitive controller, a lot of people called it an innovation. The jury's still out on that one. When Sony later announced that their PS3 controller was also motion sensitive, most people called it a ripoff. And they were right.

But the ripoffs don't stop there. At Sony's Gamer Day event, which took place this week, they announced many new games for the PS3. But the one that stole the show was High Velocity Bowling. Well, okay, not so much stole. What can I say, though - bowling is the one real sport I'm not terrible at. So, you're getting an article on it. Deal.

Anyway, what makes HVB stand out is its use of Sony's SixAxis controller. Essentially, it allows you to replicate the bowling motion, just as you do on the Wii. And you were wondering where the other ripoff was, weren't you? The game is basically a souped-up version of bowling from Wii Sports, complete with a claw machine minigame and scratch n' sniff nacho cheese case. At least, I hope so.

I guess its main claim to fame is that it looks better than Wii Sports. I generally like my bowlers to have arms and legs, but I'm weird that way. Have a look and judge for yourself:

Microsoft Gives The Boot To Xbox 360 Modders - Master Chief Denies Any Knowledge Of The Situation

Modders have always been the bane of a console maker's existence. You see, due to the high cost of cutting edge equipment, manufacturers often sell their consoles at a loss, thereby subsidizing the cost (unless your company name starts with an "N" and ends with "intendo"). The idea is to offer a more attractive price on the console, and then make the money back through accessories, licensing, and software sales.

The reason manufacturers despise modders, however, is because once a console has its security features disabled, you can easily play bootleg (translation: illegal) ROMs downloaded from warez sites. For the consumer, this means free games. For the manufacturer, this means no opportunity to make back the cost of the console, or earn a profit.

Console makers have tried to thwart modders for years, first through design revisions, and then through firmware updates on the disks. But now, thanks to the power of the internet, firmware upgrades can be delivered right to your console, any time the manufacturer wants to send them. And for MS, that time is now.

Reports are coming in from all around the web that Microsoft has begun blocking consoles that are detected as "modded" from its Live service, essentially cutting off users from updates, downloads, and multiplayer games. And, perhaps most importantly to MS, the Halo 3 beta. Make no mistake, the timing of this act was no coincidence.

So far, Bungie has denied any involvement or knowledge in this, and that's probably the truth. MS controls the reins on Live, and can do what they want. They even have a certain amount of control over a publisher's content, so Bungie would likely have no right to object to this action, if they were informed of it at all.

So what's the big deal, right? If people mod their consoles, they're obviously cheating in games or running hacked ROMs, right? No. There are many legitimate reasons to mod a console, and no console has been modded more famously than the original Xbox, through a project known as the Xbox Media Center, or XBMC. This mod allowed users to turn their Xbox into a very powerful media device, capable of playing back just about any digital content you can imagine - including perfectly legal music and movies.

The 360 modding scene hasn't taken off yet, due to some extra security built in to the console to purposely make mods more difficult to implement. However, workarounds have already been discovered, and it's only a matter of time before hackers find a way to do some amazing things with the console - they always do.

The fact is, Live is Microsoft's walled garden, and they can do what they want. They've done this kind of thing in the past with the original Xbox, and have publicly stated on numerous occasions that anyone caught using a modded console on the Live service would be banned. So, users know that they are operating at their own risk. Still, that doesn't really make the situation fair. I'm all for kicking out the cheaters and keeping the playing field level, but there are better ways than to ban people that are simply trying to enhance the user experience with their console.

Perhaps the most disturbing point in all of this, however, is that MS is not publicly advertising how users that have been incorrectly flagged as modders can get their Live access reinstated. If this program is anything like Microsoft's Windows Activation and Validation system, there are going to be some errors, and these people will simply be left out in the cold. So, if your console has not been modded and you've still been banned from Live, contact Xbox support at 1-800-4-MY-XBOX, and give the rep an ear full.

Friday Freebie - It's Something Free From Microsoft, But You Have To Hurry

It's not every day that Bill Gates cracks open his wallet and gives something back to the masses that made him the richest man in the world. And, well, today's not that day. But you're still getting something for free courtesy of Microsoft. Heck, they don't mind - it was free for them too! They just whipped and tortured a few interns to make this happen:

The game is called Aegis Wing, and it's available now, for free, on the XBLA. It was literally created by three interns working at Microsoft, and now, it's yours for the taking.

The game is a side scrolling space shooter that seems to have been inspired by Defender. Not only do the games look and play similarly, but they were both kind of a pain in the ass. That being said, this has the potential to be an addictive little time waster if you're into space shooters. Plus it's good for 200 achievement points, and we're all achievement whores, aren't we?

There's no official reason behind MS releasing this one for free, but odds are it's to garner some publicity for their XNA software. While this isn't a great game in any sense, it is very impressive when you take into account the fact that three college kids created it in just a couple months. Imagine what you're dumb ass could do!

Now here's the catch - the game is completely free, available to silver and gold level Live members, but only for a limited time. There's no word on when that will change, though, so if you want to give this one a try, be sure to grab it as soon as possible. And even if this isn't your thing, grab it anyway. You may be surprised. You'll also be sending a message to MS that free is good, and who knows - maybe they'll listen and release more free stuff in the future. Bill, if you're reading this, I could use something good for next week's column - hook a brother up!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Enjoying That Halo 3 Beta Yet? Yeah, I Didn't Think So

This week has been quite the Halo 3 week. Not only has Microsoft confirmed the launch of H3 for Sep. 25, but today is also the day that the open beta program goes live. That's right, all those folks that forked out $60 for the "special" Crackdown disk that came with H3 beta access can now play...wait for it...Crackdown. Nice.

There appears to be a problem with Live, in that it's not letting Crackdown owners download the H3 beta. Bungie and Microsoft are reportedly working on the issue, but it could be "up to 24 hours" before the problem is resolved. So all you Master Chief wannabes out there are just going to have to keep on waiting.

With that in mind, is the beta worth the wait? Yes and no. This new game is definitely Halo, and everything that you love about the franchise is still present. So if you're still playing H2, you'll love this. That being said, this game is definitely Halo, meaning there's very little innovation. If you've had your fill of Halo 2, you won't find a lot of new things here. The one disappointment has been the graphics, however - the game looks like an upsampled H2. Luckily, there's still a few months until the release, and I'm sure the devs are going to spend all of that time shinin' things up real nice.

Honestly, Bungie can't be blamed for playing it safe. So long as they don't piss off the fans, they're guaranteed to sell a few million copies in a matter of days (the preorder is already hovering around the 3 million mark, which is amazing). Still, something beyond a Halo 2.5 would have been nice.

There's a lot riding on this beta for MS, so I'm sure the Crackdown issues will be resolved soon. Then it's every noob for himself. So find some cover, bring plenty of ammo, and snipe like there's no tomorrow. Eventually...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - How Did This Show Stay On The Air So Long?

I have to warn you - unspeakable evil lies within this post. The horrors which you are about to witness could leave you shaken, scarred, and tormented for the rest of your life. Those with weak constitutions should turn back now, as I can't be held responsible for the grim fate that awaits you should you proceed to read this article. And for those who choose to proceed, all I can say is, abandon all hope, ye who enter here:

Oh, the humanity! The horror! The bad writing and rigid acting! Damn you God! Why have you forsaken us? Ah,...I think I've made my point. And what happened to the fat guy?

I thought long and hard about what I should write for this article, but finally I came to the conclusion that Wings speaks for itself. It's a terrible, terrible show that should never have seen the light of day, and that's about it. But, for some reason that I'll never be able to wrap my brain around, people watched it. And some of those people are going to buy this DVD. Hell, this is the fourth season, so odds are someone out there bought the first three. Hopefully, that bad decision by some poor, unfortunate soul won't reflect harshly on the rest of us.

So let me just say this before moving on - don't buy this. That's it - that's all I've got. I'm not going to beg or plead with you. If you decide not to take my advice, enjoy you're stay in hell. The rest of us will be there eventually.

But that leaves us with the rest of this article, so let's kill some time. How about a song? Let's go with "Misty Morning, Albert Bridge" by The Pogues:

I dreamt we were standing
By the banks of the Thames
Where the cold grey waters ripple
In the misty morning light
Held a match to your cigarette
Watched the smoke curl in the mist
Your eyes, blue as the ocean between us
Smiling at me

I awoke alone and lonely
In a faraway place
The sun fell cold upon my face
The cracks in the ceiling spelt hell
Turned to the wall
Pulled the sheets around my head
Tried to sleep, and dream my way
Back to you again

Count the days
Slowly passing by
Step on a plane
And fly away
I'll see you then
As the dawnbirds sing
On a cold and misty morning
By the Albert Bridge

Now wasn't that nicer than talking about Wings? Yeah, I thought so. Thanks Pogues. This musical moment was brought to you by the Atomic Playground. Because we care.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gears Of War Golf - Gives A Whole New Meaning To The Term Bogey

Every gamer knows that Mario is more than just a plumber. Sure, his original adventures had him roaming around in pipes, but he quickly branched out into other fields such as soccer, baseball, go kart racing, and even melees. But he's not the only multi-talented video game hero out there. So not to be outdone, Marcus Fenix from Gears of War fame is branching out...into golf. Not football. Not jai alai. Golf.

At first glance, this one seems really screwed up. What the hell does a third person shooter have to do with golfing? But think about it - how does a warrior relax after a tough weekend of shooting badies in the head? He hits the back nine and gets him some at the nineteenth hole.

Now truth be told, this game probably won't be coming to a 360 near you, which is too bad since Rockstar Table Tennis could use some competition. According to this article, the game was created as a demo to prove to Korean devs that the Unreal engine could also be used for casual games (maybe this could be a Wii release). Golf is huge in Korea, so what better way to showcase the possibilities for them?

If this ended up being a real game, Marcus would be following precisely in Mario's footsteps, as he's starred in numerous golf games as well. And there could be a market for this title - I picture it as Outlaw Golf 2 with more guns and explosions, which isn't a bad thing. Maybe it's time someone injected a little action into golf, and I can't think of anyone better than Epic to do that. Just don't try to charge me 60 bucks for it.

Sony Announces PS3 Firmware Revision 2.0...Sort Of

Hot on the heels of the latest firmware release for the Xbox 360, Sony announced the next firmware revision for the PS3 today...and then pulled it, hoping no one noticed it was out. Of course, this is the internet, so now everyone knows about it. Technology rules.

Firmware 2.0 promises to be a decent upgrade, with a lot of added features. What appears to be the full feature list was leaked earlier today, although explanations about the options were no where to be found. Expect those when the firmware actually goes live. Or at least, a couple days later, since that's usually how Sony handles these situations. That being said, there's no word yet on when this puppy will drop.

Among the list of items slated for the next release are desktop wallpaper, support for RSS feeds, new slide show effects, and revised file sorting - that last one was really overdue. You can pimp the full list here.

Admittedly, a lot of this stuff is already on the Xbox, but they had a head start in getting there. It's good to see that Sony is setting the bar high, and is piling in as many features as they can. All I gots to say is keep them coming boys. Oh, and some good games would be nice too. You know, if it's not too much trouble.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Break Out The Hairspray - The 80s Are Cool Again

It was only a matter of time. Eventually, all the old cheesy crap from years past somehow becomes cool again. Maybe as we get older, we become more nostalgic for the good old days. Maybe our memories paint a prettier picture than reality ever could. Or maybe we just don't learn from history, and are therefore doomed to repeat it. Whatever the reason, there's money to be made, and Red Octane is up to the challenge.

Announced just this week, Guitar Hero: Rock The 80s! promises to transport us back to a time when ripped acid washed jeans were cool, Camaros were plentiful, and bandanas were tied to everything in sight. It was also the time of the glorious hair bands like Poison and Bon Jovi. Where are they now? Nursing homes.

So far, seven songs have been confirmed for the game:
  • I Ran (A Flock of Seagulls)
  • Round and Round (Ratt)
  • I Wanna Rock (Twisted Sister)
  • I Want Candy (Bow Wow Wow)
  • Heat of the Moment (Asia)
  • Metal Health (Quiet Riot)
  • Holy Diver (Dio)

Extra points for anyone who can tell me the link between Ronnie James Dio and South Park (hint: Wikipedia knows all).

For now, there's no official release date, but you can expect this to drop sometime over the summer. Oh, and one more thing - it's a PS2 exclusive! That's right MS fanboys, the 360 has been left out in the cold. Here's hoping you held on to that PS2.

In the meantime, rock on:

Friday Freebie - Another Way To Thumb Your Nose At Internet Explorer

Last week, we took a look at Mozilla Firefox, an up and coming alternative to the internet's least favorite (yet most popular) browser, IE. This week, we'll continue that theme with yet another browser. Yeah, I know. Now you've got two - what could you possibly need a third browser for? Well, they're all free, so what are you complaining about? And they each have their own set of features, so one may appeal to you more than another. So this week's freebie is Opera:

No, not the Italian music sung by fat chicks. This is a free browser alternative to the more mainstream IE and Firefox. Opera has a very small following, even in comparison to Firefox, but it's a devoted group. And thanks to some good marketing and innovation, people are finally starting to recognize the name.

Despite their small market share, Opera has actually been around since 1994, although they didn't have software available to the public until 1996. If you want proof of their longevity, just take a look at the browser's current version number: 9.2. In contrast, IE is only at 7, and Firefox a mere 2. But it wasn't easy for Opera in those early days. Unlike its main rivals of the time, IE and Netscape Navigator, Opera wasn't free - you had to pay for the software. For many, this was a deal breaker.

Some web users wanted more features and a streamlined browsing experience, however, and were willing to shell out for a browser. This kept Opera in the game, and their business model allowed them to innovate. Eventually, they were able to switch to an ad-supported business model (the browser actually contained a permanent banner ad), and this helped increase their market share. It wasn't until recently, though, that the Opera became completely free.

To this day, Opera continues to set itself apart from other browsers with innovations such as "Speed Dial", an interface that allows you to choose from a thumbnail preview of your favorite websites. And that's not all - Opera is also the browser of choice for Nintendo. Wii owners can access the Internet through a custom Opera browser available on the Wii shop channel (free until June 30, 2007), and in Japan, the Opera browser is sold for use on the DS portable system. Opera also makes a browser for web-enabled cell phones and PDAs, making them a one stop browser shop.

If you'd like to give this puppy a try, you can download the browser here. Just about every OS is covered, so you don't have any excuse to pass this one up. And don't worry - no fat chicks will try to jump out of your browser and sing to you, unless you're into that kind of thing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Don't Have Enough Simpsons Crap? Then Get Yourself An Official Simpsons-Themed Xbox 360

You knew it was only a matter of time before two of the biggest franchises in the world - The Simpsons and Microsoft - got together. And here they are, going totally next gen on you with a Simpsons-themed Xbox 360.

Engadget is reporting that as part of a movie tie-in deal, Microsoft is producing a limited run of 100 Simpsons 360s to give away as promotional items. So, that means the only way you'll ever get your grubby little hands on one of these bad boys is through the power of eBay. Another downside - the console is only the premium version, not the elite.

Frankly, this doesn't surprise me one bit. The Simpsons have whored out their name to just about every product under the sun, so a video game console - something that has nothing to do with the series, unless you count that one Christmas episode - should come as no surprise. Still, it's a nice piece, and should be a great centerpiece in 100 lucky people's collection. Until they all brick with the three red lights of death, that is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - Straight Up Now Kill Me

We haven't had a music post in a while, so when I saw this title on the new release list, I knew this had trainwreck written all over it. See, someone decided that America needed to be reminded that Paula Abdul was at one time a successful musician, instead of the drugged-up hack she is today. What that person didn't realize is that we didn't forget about Paula's career by accident - we chose to forget. But now, we're all painfully reminded with the release of Paula Abdul Greatest Hits - Straight Up!:

Now I could turn this article into a rant about why American Idol is slowly killing our society, but instead, I'll just stick to the CD. There's no doubt that at one point in time, Paula was popular. Hell, even I listened to some of her music for a brief period back in 1990 (I had a troubled childhood). But those days are long gone, and for good reason - the music, much like the musician, has not aged well.

Like many greatest hits albums before it, this one follows the formula of five or six decent older songs, and then a dozen "newer" tracks which are invariably craptacular. But even the decent songs aren't really worth revisiting. While there aren't exactly a ton of great artists on the scene right now, there are enough to keep your attention from things that are better left in the past.

And don't even get me started on Paula - this is a chick with problems. I don't know, maybe those Idol paychecks are starting to bounce, and she needs some quick cash to keep the Vicodin supply topped off. Honestly though, the reason for this release doesn't matter. All that matters is that you stay away...far away.

If you're looking for some tunes to get you through the month, check out the new Maroon 5 album, or even the Spiderman 3 soundtrack - both are better investments than Paula. Remember, if you buy her CD, you're giving her drug money, and that makes you an enabler. You don't want to be part of the problem, do you? Of course not. Be part of the solution, and just say no to crappy music.

This public service announcement has been brought to you by your friends at the Atomic Playground.

Xbox 360 Spring Update - Good Thing Bandwidth Is Cheap

The latest firmware update to the Xbox 360 is set to roll out this week, and the feature list has left me wondering - is anyone excited about this? Updates for the 360 only come twice a year, unlike the seemingly weekly releases for the PS3, so people used to actually look forward to these things. I remember when background downloading was finally announced - that was an update to remember. But now...if the download wasn't automatic, it almost wouldn't be worth the time.

Here are some of the upcoming features, taken from the official Microsoft press release:
  • Tie in with Windows Live Messenger, so you can IM with your Messenger contacts directly from your 360.
  • Support for the handheld QWERTY keyboard attachment, set to be released later this summer.
  • A more complete achievement notification, detailing the name of the unlocked achievement and the points awarded.
  • A new Live Marketplace blade for accessing content from Live.
  • New download options for games (XBLA and demos) and Marketplace video content.

And, of course, we can't forget about the more robust parental controls - I know everyone's been waiting for those.

Honestly, there's just nothing here to write home about for me. I guess the IM tie-in is big for some people, though I've never liked instant messaging myself. And don't get me wrong - I'm glad MS is still developing the capabilities of the console - but something new and innovating would be nice. How about DivX support? Or a (good) browser?

Of course, there's no reason not to get the update, but I'd wait a couple days to download it. These updates have been known to brick a few consoles, and the 360 doesn't really need any help there. Let's just hope that Bill Gates has something good up his sleeve for the fall.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Happy Cinco de Mayo From The Atomic Playground!

Que pasa? Here on the east coast, it is officially Cinco de Mayo, and you know what that means baby - the tequila will be flowing!

There are only a couple days a year that it's considered okay to get completely drunk off your ass and go nuts, and today is one of them. So make the most of it - just try to steer clear of the alcohol poisoning.

Speaking of which, the party just started, and I think these guys are wasted already:

So Happy Cinco de Mayo, and viva la raza!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Play The Sims On Your PS3! Oh, It's Just The Beta For Playstation Home

You were excited for a second there, weren't you? Well, allow me to throw some cold water on you. Reports are coming in from around the interwebs that the beta testers for the upcoming Playstation Home service are now able to download the software from the Playstation Store via their PS3. Early reports stated that the software could not yet be installed, but later stories surfaced that the service is now active.

Playstation Home was announced earlier in the year at GDC by Sony, as their main online presence for the PS3. The service resembles The Sims or Second Life, in that you navigate a humanoid avatar around a 3D world and interact with other users. There are public spaces, but each user also has their own private "apartment" in which they can entertain friends and store their game trophies (the PS3 version of achievement points).

Just how useful the service will be remains to be seen. No one really knows what level of integration PS Home will have with games, and whether or not the service can act as a lobby for online multiplayer battles. I'm guessing that type of functionality won't be present at first, but it should serve as a way to interact with your clan after a match.

As more users enter the beta, updates should come fast and furious. That's what's good about the internet - we'll probably have the juicy details before Sony does. But if you didn't sign up for the beta, it's too late now. You'll just have to wait until the service officially launches this fall to get your virtual groove on PS3 style. Back to World of Warcraft for you.

Something Free From Microsoft - And All It Cost You Was $480

You couldn't just be happy with the version of the Xbox 360 that you had. No, you had to go and upgrade to the Elite, with it's precious HDMI port, 120 GB HD, and sleek black finish. Yes, I'm jealous. But in the process of handing over $480 to Bill Gates and friends, you ended up making your video game life just a little bit harder. And that's because the Elite wasn't designed for you - it was designed for new customers.

Apparently, the suits at MS thought that all the complaints about the lack of an HDMI port on the old 360 came from people who flat out refused to buy one. So, the Elite was made for them. It never occurred to them that existing 360 owners would want to "upgrade" to the new system, so MS left out one crucial piece of the upgrade puzzle - the HD transfer cable.

You know all that crap you download off of Xbox Live? It's stored on your existing hard drive. And in order to make use of it on your new console, with your new hard drive, you need to transfer the data via a special cable. Unfortunately, MS decided not to package the cable with the Elite, and only packages it with the separately purchased 120 GB HD. So, those people replacing their old consoles were left out in the cold regarding their save games and downloadable content. Unless they wanted to shell out even more cash for a memory card to transfer the data that way.

But once upgraders started to complain, the boys in Redmond finally decided to give them the transfer cable free of charge - it's really the least you should get for $480. If you need the cable, you can get the PDF form here. Too bad you have to mail or fax it back - there's no online submission. Hell, it's not like these people make software to access the internet or run servers or anything.

And once you receive your cable in the mail (8-12 weeks later, I'm sure), you can get the instructions on how to use it here. See, even Microsoft can do the right thing eventually. Why, I'll bet in 20 years, they'll even turn off product activation in Windows XP. I won't bet much, of course...

Friday Freebie - The IE Alternative That You Should Really Already Have

I'm going to guess that a lot of our more seasoned readers already have this freebie, but for all the rest, it's worth the feature. The majority of the world surfs the net with whatever browser came preloaded on their PC, and that usually means Internet Explorer. And while Microsoft did step up its game with the (long overdue) release of IE7, that piece of software still isn't necessarily the best browser for the job. Not to mention the new interface is downright ugly. But fear not - an alternative is at hand, and it is named Firefox:

Back in the late 1990s, the browser war was a big deal. The internet had just exploded (not literally - that won't happen for a few months yet at least), and Netscape Navigator was king. But thanks to some alleged unfair business practices, MS was quickly gaining ground with its buggy but upcoming IE. So what was Netscape to do? Put a hex on Bill Gates? No! They decided to completely redo their browser, using a project known as Mozilla. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for the company, and they lost their market share before a meaningful new browser could be born.

But that wasn't the end of the Mozilla project. That team kept chugging along, slowing building a better browser. And eventually, after a few naming problems, Firefox was born. At first, few people took notice. Over time, though, people grew tired of IE's inherent flaws and MS's lack of innovation in the browser market, and began to look elsewhere. That's when Firefox really took off. So to speak.

The truth is, even with all the support Firefox receives from the web elite, IE is still used by over 80% of all web surfers, just because it's there and it's what people are used to. But if you're willing to give something new a try, Firefox is worth the download. The interface is clean, but customizable. Plus, there are plenty of add-ons for the browser, so you can incorporate a whole bunch of additional tools right in one window. It's also very fast, due to Mozilla's minimalist approach to coding - always a good thing. And the best part, besides the lack of a price? It's stable. Aside from the occasional memory leak, the browser isn't going to crash on you two or three times a day. That alone makes this a must have.

As for downsides, there's really only one. Many web pages today are designed specifically for IE. What that means is they follow IE's coding requirements, and not necessarily web standards. So, it's possible that a few of your favorite pages won't look quite right when viewed through Firefox. This has improved over the years, as web developers started to realize how popular Firefox was becoming. But you'll always have IE to fall back on for those few pages if necessary. And the truth is, it's a small price to pay for a slicker, faster, more stable browsing experience.

Downloads for Windows, Mac, and Linux machines can be found right here. They've even got our foreign friends covered, with versions available in multiple languages. So next time you visit the Atomic Playground, I expect you to be viewing it through Firefox. Don't worry - the site looks just as good through it as it does IE.

Note - no foxes were set on fire during the making of this browser, or during this review. Well, not on purpose at least...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

God Bless The Internet - HD-DVD Is Officially Cracked!

The internet is a wonderful, magical entity teaming with people from all walks of life. Okay, it's mostly a bunch of old creepy guys in chat rooms trading porn. But there are a few shining stars in the tubes - people who dedicate their time to making information free, and tearing down the barriers to freedom erected by those greedy corporate fatcats. And those fine folks have struck again, this time taking down one of the next gen HD formats. That's right - HD-DVD has been cracked!

For most people...this isn't news. No one really cares about the so-called "next gen format war". The average consumer is happy with his regular DVD, with only those bleeding edge early adopters taking the plunge on the new stuff. But this crack isn't about helping the masses now - it's about helping them in the future.

Every day, more and more of our digital rights are taken away at the hands of DRM. And the DRM found in the next gen optical disks is some of the strongest stuff as yet unleashed on the public. Some in the industry even went so far to say that it would never be cracked. But that statement is like issuing an open invitation to all the hackers, crackers, and netizens with too much time on their hands to pool their resources and take down the system - and that's just what happened earlier in the week.

News of the crack spread across the internet fast, and quickly became the top story on sites like Digg. Now, it shouldn't come as any surprise to find that the corporate bigwigs didn't want this information disseminated to the masses, so they quickly sent their hell hound lawyers into action. As a result, the stories disappeared from Digg. But that wasn't the end of this tale. As a mighty army, the internet nerds rose as one, and pushed every article out there on the HD-DVD crack to the top of the Digg charts. And Digg heard the call.

Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, posted a story to the site explaining why the initial articles were removed. But, more importantly, he also stated that the company respected the wishes of its users, and that all other stories referencing the crack would be allowed to remain on Digg. He even posted the crack code himself in his blog.

I really respect Mr. Rose for standing up to the big corporations, and standing behind the wishes of the people that have made his site the success that it is. I hope that this will not be the end of Digg, but if it is, to put it in Mr. Rose's words, "at least we died trying".

Let this be a lesson to everyone on the internet. Don't let your rights be taken away without a fight. You have to stand up for the little things - if you don't, there won't be anyone left to stand up for the big things. If you want to help, start at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization created to help people fight for their digital rights. And again, a thanks to everyone on the net that made both this crack possible, and made it known. There is freedom in information.

It's Finally Okay To Play Video Games At School

Personally, I never got the whole DDR thing (that's Dance Dance Revolution for those of you completely removed from reality). I make lazy an art form, so any game that makes me get off my duff and actually perform some type of physical activity is strictly verboten. But someone seems to like these games, as there's no shortage of them for just about any console you can think of. Even arcades aren't safe. arcades even exist anymore?

Anyway, there's one good thing about DDR - it's bringing games to school. Now kids can get their fix without sneaking their DS into class and risking detention. A large number of schools across the country have decided to incorporate DDR into the phys. ed. curriculum, giving kids an alternative to the kickball and ping pong that we grew up playing in school. The hope is that video games like these will make it fun for kids to get some exercise, so they can shed all the McDonald's pounds in time for the prom.

Who knows - maybe this is just the start of things to come. If video games get a legitimate foothold in schools, how much longer will it be before standardized testing is replaced by Big Brain Academy, driver's ed. is replaced by Gran Turismo, and algebra is replaced by Grand Theft Auto? If they had that when I was in school, I might have gone more often. Yeah, probably not...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - Beware The Chick Flick

I picked this week's Trainwreck based on the assumption that no women actually read this site. This theory is based on a couple factors. First, more than half the stories on this site are about video games, and the only three girl gamers that I know don't bother to read this page. Second, I haven't had any hotties email me pics of their boobies as a direct result of this site (though I did receive a pic of this boob). So with all that in mind, this week's Trainwreck is the biggest chick flick of the year, Dreamgirls:

If you like movies about singing, feelings, and relationships, then you're a wuss. Go read another website. But, as long as you're here, let me tell you that you'll like this movie. For all the rest of us that just want a few explosions and some full frontal nudity, this flick is two hours of torture.

Based on the cast list alone, you'd think this one was worth the price of admission - you've got Eddie Murphy (without the fat suit), Jamie Fox, Danny Glover, and Beyonce Knowles for some much needed hotness. But even this cast can't change the fact that this is a touchy feely movie, and honestly, not even a great one of those.

In short, the plot revolves around three women who want to become music stars. They start as backup singers for Murphy, and eventually form their own group. But, jealousy and infighting in the group over who is the real star ultimately causes their downfall. Yeah, it's the same thing that broke up Poison - no one in the music biz is safe.

The one saving grace of the movie is the music - say what you want, but that Jennifer Hudson can sing. Unfortunately, the music is incomplete, as most of the songs are only presented as clips in the movie. What's there is gold, but there's just not enough of it to make this movie worthwhile to a male audience.

Bottom line, this isn't a bad movie - if you're a chick, you'll love it. But if you're a dude, getting through it will be rough. On the plus side, sitting through this with a chick will probably score you some major points, and could mean an even bigger score later in the night. So when this DVD ends, fire up the Barry White and make all her dreams come true.

And for any girls that are actually reading this - you can send those pics of your boobies to me right here. Thanks!

A Debut To Forget - No One Cares About The Xbox 360 Elite

I had a late night Saturday night - I'm just starting to recover. It was so late that Saturday night magically turned into Sunday morning. It was the craziest thing - this big glowing disk rose over the horizon, and suddenly, a new day was born. I'm told this is called a sunrise, and that it happens every day. I'm not usually conscious during the time this supposedly happens, so I can't say for sure. But I'm glad I got to see at least one.

Anyway, this Sunday marked the official launch of the Xbox 360 Elite. Assuming you hadn't already snagged one, this was your opportunity. So, since this was essentially free time for me, I decided to head down to my local Target to cover the "launch event".

I arrived in the parking lot at 7 a.m., exactly one hour before the store opening. There was already a line of about 10 people in front of the store, which seemed like a reasonable number. Then I started talking to the crowd, and I found out the horrific truth - today was a Wii day. That's right, 10 people were at Target at 7 a.m. on the Xbox 360 Elite's launch day to buy a Nintendo Wii. Fantastic. But, there was still an hour to go, so I held out hope.

By the time the store opened, two lines had formed out front. The larger was for the Wii, with about 30-35 people. The smaller was for the Elite, and it consisted of...1 person. That's right: o-n-e. I guess technically that shouldn't be called a "line", but I'm editorializing here.

Of course, none of this is much of a surprise. Almost no one was clamouring for a more expensive version of the 360. If anything, people wanted just the opposite. And with the supply/demand ratio for the Wii where it is, I'm guessing that most Sunday mornings outside of Target look just like this one. So what's a slightly-upgraded console to do? I guess a rampant 360 killing spree is an option, but more than likely, it'll just be back to the boardroom for Bill Gates and the gang.

Until a new battle plan can be drawn up, we'll just have to live with the fact that the 360 is the "middle console" that just doesn't get it's fair share of attention. Instead of focusing on a good value console that delivers a wide library of games, people would rather talk about the sexy console that costs an arm and a leg and treats you like dirt in front of your friends, the PS3 (even if only to bash it - it's kind of a Paris Hilton thing), or the fun baby console that saves puppies and reverses global warming, the Wii. But don't cry for the 360 - it doesn't want your pity. It just wants your money.